Hindus celebrate spiritual master


“Celebrating a Life of Inspirations” Festival to commemorate 100 years of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and work at Jamuhuri High School on September 20, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

From the moment you enter Jamhuri High School grounds in Nairobi, you are met by a hypnotising atmosphere of the Hindu way of life of imposing sculptures, images and other depictions of the Indian culture that are on display here.

On this 10-acre piece of land in Nairobi’s Parklands are giant screens and hundreds of interactive exhibitions, from cuisines to fashion, worship objects and rituals, drawings, sculptures and other forms of art.

We are at the centennial celebrations of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the fifth guru or spiritual master of the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS).

The BAPS is a major branch of the Swaminarayan Sampradaya, a Hindu denomination.

The eight-day festival, dubbed ‘‘A Life of Inspiration’’ is organised by the community of the Swaminarayan Temple in Nairobi in commemoration of the life, times and works of Pramukh , who died in 2016.

Before he died aged 95, the revered figure in the Hindu community was one of the world’s most inspirational spiritual leaders.

He is credited for helping to construct more than 1,000 temples around the world, and the highest number outside India for which he was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2000.

One of these temples is Africa’s first ever craved stone Hindu shrine, the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple complex, an architectural masterpiece along Wangari Maathai Road in Parklands, that was built in 1999.

Upon his death, Swami was succeeded by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaja, now the sixth guru.

‘‘We are doing this to inspire the public and to encourage them to think of what they can do for their communities and the country rather than what these can do for them,’’ says Nimesh Wadhia, the event’s communication manager.

Among the exhibitions are ‘‘flavours of India’’, a collection of foods and drinks from the Asian subcontinent at Shayona restaurant.


“Celebrating a Life of Inspirations” Festival to commemorate 100 years of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and work at Jamuhuri High School on September 20, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

This one offers a ‘‘sumptuous array of freshly cooked, authentic dishes from various regions of India’’ in addition to traditional favourites such as chips, pizzas and wraps.

Another attraction is the ‘‘Garden of Divinity’’, which represents India’s rich cultural heritage through life-sized figures of the country’s saints, sages, philosophers, poets and scholars, both men and women, who made significant contributions to knowledge in the world.

Yet most imposing of them all is that of Pramukh Swami, the man of the moment.

There is also a children’s section, where entertainment, learning, movie watching and a theme park are being held.

More than 3,000 visitors, adults and children alike, have been trooping to the venue daily since Saturday last week, with 10,000 guests hosted on each day between Saturday and Sunday.

Music, dance and film are also being showcased here, themed around inspiring talks, drama, plays and dances. At the multimedia pavilion, videos are shown on family life, the Indian way of life and communities.

Organisers of the event are also using the activity as a blood-donation drive, and to collect money to go to a kitty for helping underprivileged families.

The eight-day event, which closes this Sunday, is a precursor to the main global event that will be held in India in coming weeks.

Born in Chansad, a small Indian village in the state of Gujarat, Swami would travel the world to promote morality and spirituality, all while leading a life of austerity by shunning both personal gain and comforts.

‘‘He possessed nothing, asked for nothing but gave all he had,’’ explains Hanil Thakkar, one of the organisers of the event.

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